Monday, September 18, 2023

200-race milestone on UltraSignup: quite off actually!

I've mixed feelings about UltraSignup providing us so many results in a single place: while it's such a convenient feature, I know some people feel that their own results have been stollen from them. Actually, I don't know about the legal implications behind the scene, but more frequent are now the races which don't have their results showing on UltraSignup anymore (e.g., those using RunSingup).

With that disclaimer, I noticed last night that UltraSignup has 200 races listed for me. I checked Athlinks and it's harder to determine because they don't give you a precise count and their results don't get copied and pasted well in Excel. I estimate they have more than 280 results. Per their name, UltraSignup was initially focusing on ultra, then expanded to trail running. Conversely, Athlinks started with the populous road races. And each moved over the other's turf. 

One of the reasons I still keep a running log manually in Excel is to avoid relying on such race registration and result platforms, or the various GPS watch vendors. In that log, I actually have 358 races listed since I moved to the US in 1998 and started training and running seriously (I had ran a handful of races in Paris over the previous 10 years, plus a few cross-country races as a kid but I don't have any record of them).

Note that, on the ultra running side, the German DUV database is amazingly accurate and exhaustive. For me it shows 183 results and 179 events, versus the 193 ultra starts and 176 finishes in my spreadsheet (and it doesn't show last month's Tamalpa Headlands 50K yet). By the way, that of course doesn't include 308 more ultras I ran as training runs.

So, while 200 race results is a cool milestone to celebrate, it's quite off, and behind reality. And so far away from Jason Reed's 343 (and Jason might have many more misses given he races several other formats like snowshoeing and orienteering events). Similarly, behind JR Mintz's 356 UltraSignup results, a number which is also way under representing the mind blowing 1,750 races he had finished as of early September!

Did you know there is also a rather exclusive club for those who have completed 100+ races of 100+ miles? The list is maintained by ultra historian Davy Crockett, and his last induction, member #25, is actually a French fellow whom I will meet at Spartathlon next week as he goes for his 19th finish there. Just mere 2 years older than the age I'm running this mythical event for the first time! You see, always feeling so behind... Anyway, that's Gilles Pallaruelo.

One more thought about the 200 milestone: these races span from 5K to 24-hour (133 miles PR so far), from road to track or trails, from flat to hilly and technical, so hard to compare. And it may be challenging to comprehend but a 5K all in the red zone can be much harder than shuffling 100 miles. Among all these formats, my favorite distance remains 50K and, with 79 so far, that shows on this graph!

Years ago, you would have told me I'd run so many ultras, I wouldn't have believed it, that would have seemed impossible or just crazy! But craziness is actually very relative in our sport... there is always someone making your achievements pale in comparison! By definition (anything beyond the marathon distance) ultra running has no upper bound limit, this can get quite addictive, doesn't it? Borrowing from Ultra Hall of Fame's Roy Pirrung, who closes every of his messages on Facebook this way: see you in a few miles... Wait, just a few miles? One race at a time, one training run at a time...

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Quicksilver Half Marathon 2023: pictures from the aid station, and New Almaden

For a big change and an opportunity to give back to my Quicksilver Club and our local trail community, I didn't race today! I volunteered to help out at the Prospect aid station which half marathon runners were visiting twice at about 6.5 and 10.5 miles.

We were 4 for 40 runners so it wasn't super busy, especially given the spread of the runners over about 2 hours. Great opportunity to catch-up with my fellow Striders, Peggy and Peter, and clubmate, Jim. Guess what we talked the most about? Spot on, running! Peggy and Peter are heading to the Grand Canyon in a few weeks, and Jim to Rio del Lago for his first 100-miler in November. And they learned a few things about my upcoming 153-mile Spartathlon around the corner un exactly 2 weeks now!

While Jim drove his SUV to haul the aid station supplies, Peggy, Peter and I ran from the Hacienda entrance, a nice 4-mile warm-up. Knowing that the aid station was set on a very exposed location, I had planned on a hot morning. Well, we didn't see the sun but remained in the misty fog all morning, yikes! With all the heat training I got for Greece, that made for a chilly shift.

We formed an outstanding and efficient crew: Peter handled the refills, Peggy the gestures to make sure the runners were not missing the incoming hairpin turn up the trail, Jim diligently kept records of every runner's split for both their passages through the station and I took pictures of almost all the runners! I had brought my point and shoot Canon with a 40x zoom but forgot I had left it on Manual mode after photographing the Super Blue Moon last month, oops!

At least I was able to sneak this cool shot of the Mockingbird parking lot from afar. Several runners appreciated seeing the end of the tunnel from our aid station! The power of a 40x zoom, a cool and useful feature for safaris for instance.

Our Quicksilver teammate Sylvie was the first runner to fly through the station and I could say that her speed was the reason of the blurriness of her pictures but, no, just my bad, and sorry Sylvie! I even could only catch your back on the second passage because we were still taking care of incoming runners. Congrats on your overall win!

Anyway, after a few tries, I switched to shooting with my iPhone 13 mini, that did the trick with the low light. Not much bokeh, enjoy the free pictures in this Google photo album, as I enjoy them when on the other side of the line! ;-) Oh, and please download those you want to keep, I may discard that album at some point to save on cloud storage/cost.

Once the last runner went through, we dismantled the station and I ran the last 2.5 miles to the finish, passing the last 2 runners. And getting there much before Jim who drove the supplies to the Mockingbird finish area. With almost 20 volunteers, everything was packed back in the rental truck by noon, yeah! Well, still some post-race cleaning and sorting work for Stuart...

Special thanks and kudos to our Race Director, Laura, our Club President, Stuart and our Volunteer Coordinator, Bob. Such a hard work to keep this Club tradition running, even for less than 100 runners (we are so rich with races in the Bay Area, it's border overwhelming...).

Very special wishes to Marc, our past Team Captain and today's birthday boy! Great to see you running today, Marc, albeit learning this still hurts...

I ran back to my car at Hacienda by the Almaden Road, for a total of 9.4 miles. I had dinner once at the famous French restaurant La ForĂȘt, but never really took the time to visit New Almaden. Such a key piece of our local history, dating back to the first half of the 19th century, it was worth stopping at quite a few plaques on the side of the road. See the end of the photo album for more pictures, especially for those reading from our of town. For the Bay Area folks, make a point to visit this gem of California's mining history!